Is Vladimir Putin sick or even dying?

An oligarch close to the Kremlin was recorded on a tape saying the president is ‘very ill with blood cancer.’ Is this true, idle speculation or disinformation designed to make an erratic and paranoid dictator vulnerable?

The tabloid press, supported by an avalanche of Twitter diagnosticians, appears to believe so. The 69-year-old Russian president’s declining health has been the topic of intense speculation since his Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine began — speculation that Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has dismissed, citing Putin’s “excellent” health.

Boris Karpichkov, a KGB defector to the UK (and former officer of the Second Chief Directorate, specializing in counterintelligence), believes his fellow sexagenarian ex-spy has Parkinson’s disease, as well as “many” other ailments such as dementia.

Karpichkov told Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, equating Putin to Stalin, who had at least one stroke:

“He is — or at least acts — mad and obsessed with paranoia concepts.” 

Putin is set to undergo surgery for an unspecified form of cancer in the near future, according to a Telegram channel allegedly run by a former officer from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, and his temporary replacement will be the grim Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, a fellow ex-KGB man and longtime director of one of the agency’s successor agencies.

Patrushev is also one of the regime’s most hardline ideologues, as New Lines has demonstrated.

Putin himself is the evidence for the preponderance of varied, if not contradictory, claims of Putin’s impending demise. He obviously has a horrible appearance. At televised events, Putin’s bullfrog mien, awkward gait, and fidgety behavior were on display, including his April 22 meeting with his embattled defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, during which a slumped Putin clung to the edge of a parodically tiny table as if to steady himself against a tremor or vertigo.

There’s also his renowned self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is sometimes cited as the cause for his holding meetings with foreign visitors at medieval banquet-length tables both before and after the war. (According to Russian independent media, everyone who wants to be close to Putin must undergo a PCR test and even offer a fecal sample.)

Putin is known to have sustained several injuries to his back since he first became president of Russia in 2000. He fell off a horse during his first term, an accident that incapacitated him for a time, according to a source cited by Proyekt. He can also be seen limping in more recent videos, a conspicuous feature of his public appearances such that the Kremlin press service at one point banned state news agencies from referring to it.

He also took a nasty spill at an ice hockey match in Sochi in May 2017 after another player knocked him. On that occasion, Sim, the orthopedic traumatologist, remained close to Putin’s residence for eight days. “In at least two cases,” Proyekt reported, “Putin underwent either an operation or a very serious procedure, most likely in the back.”

Beginning in 2012, the president’s ailing health was also blamed for his extended absences from the spotlight. Those absences have resulted in the spread of “canned food,” or taped footage of his ostensibly real-time interactions with visitors, as dubbed by the Russians. Putin’s meeting with his national security leaders, which was broadcast on Feb. 21 shortly before the start of his latest war with Ukraine, was filmed earlier, based on the dates displayed on the attendees’ watches.

On March 18, at a large pro-war rally in Moscow, Putin delivered an address and was filmed walking off stage down a short flight of stairs putting most of his weight on his left foot.

Just this past week, at Russia’s Victory Day celebration in Red Square, to commemorate the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, Putin sat with an FDR-Esque blanket draped over his lap. (The temperature in Moscow on Victory Day — May 9 — was a non-Arctic 48 degrees Fahrenheit.) His walk during the Victory Day parade was visibly awkward, possibly to conceal a limp that has elsewhere been observed. And his face was even puffier than usual.

Sources: Dailywire, Dailymail, Rifnote

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